Tag Archives: cso

Would becoming a navigator help me become a pilot?

A few years ago, any of the following scenarios were quite realistic:

  1. An aspiring fighter pilot is unable to get a pilot slot, so he becomes a navigator. A year or two later, because he has “air experience,” he is able to get a “second chance” to get a pilot slot, and his time as a navigator makes him very competitive.
  2. An aspiring fighter pilot is medically unqualified to be a pilot but still qualifies as a navigator. After a year or two as a navigator, he is able to get a medical waiver to obtain a pilot slot.

The opportunities for the above scenarios are increasingly rare. This is largely because there are fewer and fewer navigators, as many are being replaced by computers.  In fact, the term “navigator” has essentially gone away and has been replaced by “combat systems operator,” or CSO, in most cases.

This means that in some cases the Air Force may be unwilling to let a CSO leave–unless the need for pilots is greater than the need for CSO. It is still possible to cross-train to become a pilot, but you should not view the CSO-detour as a primary path. If for some reason you can’t get a pilot slot but you can become a navigator, you do still “have a chance.”

USAFA: Cadet Pilot Volunteers also UAV Volunteers

The Air Force Academy published a release saying they have “typically” filled their pilot slots, but they had trouble filling non-pilot rated career fields — CSOs, ABMs, and UAVs. The issue is that all rated career fields are volunteer only. Many cadets would volunteer only for a pilot slot, and the others were going unfilled.

USAFA’s solution? If you volunteer for a pilot slot, you’re volunteering for any rated field — including UAVs:

“They cannot volunteer for just one. By volunteering Read more

Air Force vs Naval Academy: Best for Becoming a Fighter Pilot

One question asked repeatedly is whether it’s better to go Air Force or Navy if one wants to fly or be a fighter pilot.  The FAQ of this site answers this question (as well as many others), but there’s interesting and relevant information from the graduation of the class of 2011 that just occurred.

Class Size:  1035
Pilot Training (incl. “Marine Air”): 305 (30%)
Naval Flight Officer: 75 (7%)

Class Size:  1021  Read more